In the 1980s, a need was expressed by the composites industry for better-trained graduates entering the field. WSU met that challenge, and today Winona enjoys employment in the composites sector up to 30 times that of similar sized cities. Industry leaders credit the college’s Department of Composite Materials Engineering (CME) as well as its Composite Materials Technology Center (COMTEC).
The one-of-a-kind CME department has produced many successful graduates who have risen up to high-level positions in the composites industry. Meanwhile, COMTEC links the program to the business community by working on hundreds of projects each year.
One COMTEC success story follows Ben Eby, an entrepreneur who had developed an innovative nail removal tool. Eby and his father, Eric Eby, had started the E.B. Tool Company to sell their nail remover, the Kwick Gripper. The nail puller also works well for screw removal and bolt removal, even when the fasteners are heavily damaged.
However, Eby needed a prototype to demonstrate to customers and showcase the Kwick Gripper’s exceptional ability to remove any type of nail, screw or bolt. Matt Benson, the director of COMTEC, stepped in to help. The lab quickly produced a model, and Eby credits COMTEC’s work and their support with the Kwick Gripper’s current success.
Benson believes that is what the COMTEC is meant to do. He stated, "The mission of Winona State University is to enhance the intellectual, social, cultural and economic vitality of the people and communities we serve. Our help on Mr. Eby’s Kwick Gripper prototype is an excellent example of our mission in action."
More information on COMTEC is available on their webpage (http://www.winona.edu/
The E.B. Tool Company, meanwhile, is set to release its first wave of the Kwick Gripper nail removal tool. Details on the product and the business can be found at ebtoolcompany.com.
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